radula

The radula (plural radulae or radulas) is an anatomical structure that is used by molluscs for feeding, sometimes compared rather inaccurately to a tongue. It is a minutely toothed, chitinous ribbon, which is typically used for scraping or cutting food before the food enters the oesophagus. The radula is unique to the molluscs, and is found in every class of mollusc except the bivalves. Within the gastropods, the radula is used in feeding by both herbivorous and carnivorous snails and slugs. The arrangement of teeth (also known as denticles) on the radula ribbon varies considerably from one group to another. In most of the more ancient lineages of gastropods, the radula is used to graze, by scraping diatoms and other microscopic algae off rock surfaces and other substrates. Predatory marine snails such as the Naticidae use the radula plus an acidic secretion to bore through the shell of other molluscs. Other predatory marine snails, such as the Conidae, use a specialized radula tooth as a poisoned harpoon. Predatory pulmonate land slugs, such as the ghost slug, use elongated razor-sharp teeth on the radula to seize and devour earthworms. Predatory cephalopods, such as squid, use the radula for cutting prey. The introduction of the term “radula” is usually attributed to Alexander von Middendorff in 1848.